New Year, Same Me

Back in October, I started reflecting on 2019. The planner sat empty, except for my name on the page at the front where I promise a reward if someone finds it, until this week. Uncertainty loomed large. Planners seem orthogonal to ambiguity.

Remember the Be/Do/Have questions?

  • I want to be a national-level powerlifter in my age group.
  • I want to be a better clinician for my kiddos.
  • I want to be a grounded partner, mother, and friend.
  • I want to travel at least once this year.
  • I want to spend more time at the beach.
  • I want to bike more, walk more
  • I want to have a peaceful porch
  • I want to have a productive office space
  • I want to have a tidy home

Take a look at my lists. I am very “BE” driven. Each of the “DO” and “HAVE” items feeds at least one “BE”. Let’s re-arrange these slightly by function.

I want to be a national-level powerlifter in my age group. To make this happen, there is a lot of lifting. There is also active recovery and stress management, which means consistent quality time on the bike and in the park. I meditate on my porch and like to do yoga there most of the year, which is easier when the porch is peaceful and thus inviting. Travel to a larger-scale meet with an extra day or two for a vacation would support this goal.

I want to be a better clinician for my kiddos. Becoming a better clinician involves actively seeking supervision, taking time to reflect on my practice, and continuing education. A productive office space, a peaceful porch, and a tidy home can give me the mental and physical spaces to support intellectual and emotional effort. Conferences and trainings away from home are a great way to break out of routine and wake up my beginner’s mind. Conference on the beach? I’m there.

I want to be a grounded partner, mother, and friend. Reflection, meditation, activities like lifting, biking, yoga, swimming, and reading re-fill my cup and make space for everyone else. No one comes to my house for my housekeeping, but having a comfortable space to share with others is important to me.

What goes in the planner? Like most goals, these break down into a mix of one-off to-dos and habits/processes and not everything can go in the planner at once. Lord have mercy, my head would explode and I’d be a sobbing heap of failure by February. Some people can and have done everything, cold turkey. Fix the eating, hit the gym, clean the house, repaint the kids, do it all! However, most of us aren’t like that. The human animal has an enormous drive to return to the familiar and too much change tends to rebound with a nasty bounce.

What’s familiar right now? Lifting four days a week. Meditation three days a week. Eating well 60% of the time. Erratic housekeeping around my erratic “staff” [read teenagers]. Watching Netflix at night with my husband. Reading 70% of the books I mean to read. Tossing and turning at night because I haven’t left work at work. Hot soaks nearly nightly with epsom salts.

Where are my anchors? Lifting is solid. Going to work is solid.

Which existing habits can be a little better? Eating well consistently. This takes at least 90% adherence to be successful and 60% is frustrating. Housekeeping consistently. There are a few things I currently do sometimes, like start laundry and take care of the dishwasher in the morning, that I could do more often and make a big difference in the state of my world. Meditate consistently. More is better, and fifteen minutes daily instead of 15 minutes on three seemingly random days a week might smooth out a bunch of stuff.

There’s January. Three habits. No one-offs. Anything else that happens is bonus and not tracked, like getting to the local yoga studio I tried last week or to the park on a chance warm evening. Let’s see what happens.

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Birthdays and Planners

My birthday is in October, along with my uncle’s and brother’s and grandmother’s birthdays. Now, my preferred planner ships to me in October and every year about this time I start taking stock and reflecting on goals, process, outcome, and direction for the next year.

This year was a solid “B”. I meant to finish grad school, lose a bunch of weight, be able to deadlift 250 pounds, start a business, and either learn how to dress intentionally or find a job where I wouldn’t have to. Grad school finished, I lost some weight and packed on some muscle, my deadlift is sitting at 225 with two months left in the year, the business is on hold until I can find a partner, my friend is teaching me how to dress and I found a great job where I can wear stretchy pants and untucked dress shirts. Not bad.

What about next year?

I am 51 this year, and I’ve been setting SMART goals since my early teens. There is a difference between setting goals and achieving goals, between being motivated and being committed, and between striving to please your Self and working to ward off outside negativity. The framework I use has layers stolen or borrowed from other sources.

First

The Big Four questions, borrowed from Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.d, at Precision Nutrition:

  • Who am I?
  • What’s important to me?
  • What am I willing to trade?
  • What’s not negotiable?

These are beautiful questions that go straight to the soul. If your heart pounds with anxiety when you see the questions because you don’t have any of the answers, it’s okay. Part of life is figuring them out. Try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Here is Vaynerchuk talking about “tasting” for 2:54.

Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, tasting is still a great idea. We change as we age. It would be foolish for me to predict at 24 how I will think or feel at 64, and then act at 64 as if those predictions must be true.

Second

I’m starting to enjoy thinking of

  • how do I want to BE?
  • what do I want to DO?
  • what would I like to HAVE?

The Big Four put a fence around all of the acceptable versions of me, so I can think about what my life could look like when lived with integrity. For the last two years, learning was my most important value. To learn, I neglected my family, my health, and almost every other opportunity. Learning dominated to such an extent when graduation came, I felt adrift and created those “lost” months of the summer.

This short video is about parenting, but even if you aren’t parenting, the advice is still great. Find your Thing, do that Thing, enjoy your Thing, value your Thing. Don’t do the thing you hate. Do you. Check your expectations of yourself and others.

This is where I’ll start. It’s a messy process full of color markers, washi tape, scrapbook paper, and Pinterest. What is speaking to me at this time of life? I’ll do some work, take some pictures and let you know.

Trust

School is over. The first powerlifting competition is in two weeks. What next?

I have a good relationship with my coach, so I let him choose. If you don’t have the kind of coach you could trust with your body, find a new one. Seriously. He’s certified, degree’d, and committed to holistic well-being. We’ve spent more than (2 hrs * 4 weeks * 4 months) + (3 hrs * 4 weeks * 6 months) together and he knows me fairly well. He was also spot-on with his lift estimates for my first meet, even with my wacko eating, stress, and sleeping the last semester of school. We committed to eighteen months. If I had eighteen months to spend on a goal, what should it be?

He chose body transformation with a sprinkle of powerlifting for interest. We agreed to blog both sides of the quest over at groundedsc.com, because AO is also my business partner. My blog is about my stuff, the emotional and mental game, and my response to coaching. His blog is about working with a difficult client on a challenging goal, e.g. balancing the calorie deficits required for fat loss while increasing muscle mass and maintaining powerlifting performance.

You’ll be a different person in eighteen months. So will I.

Body transformation is an ambitious goal. In theory and in practice, I understand nutrition, change psychology, habit formation, blah, blah, blah, so AO has stayed out my nutrition struggles. He’s the CSCS, I’m the LMSW. We have scopes of practice, but I’m having trouble settling into consistent eating habits and my weight loss is stalled. He’s gently insisting on a higher level of accountability because as a client I am back to knowing and not doing. I thought I could count macros and cut once school was out and I was so wrong. As long as I am still inhaling chips and guac or treating myself to a burger and fries this often, he can’t do his job. He is very good at his job.

The plan at the moment is to use Precision Nutrition‘s ProCoach system to manage my return to sane, consistent eating. It will lead me back through thirteen evidence-based habits, while I reflect on what’s important to me and any barriers I experience. On the movement side, AO is anticipating an eighteen-month macro cycle composed of four meso cycles, each of which will culminate in a powerlifting meet. Each meso cycle consists of a fat loss, hypertrophy, and strength microcycle. I’m glad he’s doing the spreadsheet because it hurt my brain just to construct the sentences.

We are also avoiding setting any end-game goals. It was his idea to set micro-goals as we go and not look too far ahead. I suspect, however, he will set secret goals. His eyes lit up and he got a vision when he thought about me being a different person, I saw the thought run across his forehead. We don’t care so much about the scale as we do body-fat and tape measurements. The scale will move, but weight loss isn’t a linear process and I care less about how much I weigh than how much weight I can push or pull. I ordered an inexpensive at-home body-fat BIA device which may not have high validity but should have good reliability.

If you can’t do this with your coach/trainer, find a new one. You deserve better.

 

If I have to tell you…

Is such a chick thing. Quite by accident, today we touched on game-day mental skills. What do you need from me? Are you going to be serious? What are you going to be like? Super relevant questions, certainly worth asking and worth asking now.

I’m so glad you asked.

A performance plan begins months before actual competition. I have two events, bench press and deadlift, at this first meet. Each event has its own goal. The plates will be color-coded.

vtx-colored-rubber-bumper-plates-19__54598.1503414736
https://buckeyefitness.com/vtx-230-lb-colored-bumper-plate-set/

This means I know what my final bars will look like. Those are the bars to plan for. The bench press goal is 125. That’s 45 pounds of bar + 2(yellow + black). That’s why you take Algebraic Systems, so you can do math without numbers. My coach thinks bar + 2(blue) would be cool. 115 isn’t bad, especially considering last spring my left shoulder was a hot mess. However, let’s be positive here. The visualization has to include as much sensation as possible. I have to see the bar, see the plates, feel the bench on my back, smell that gym smell of plates and sweat, hear noise, listen to the official’s instruction, set my shoulders, count the bar off, feel the inhale, then the eccentric motion, listen for “up!”, and feel my chest, shelf, and core engage and watch the bar lift effortlessly through my exhale and then rack the weight. I love that thunk.

The next questions are what happened in the 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes before the lift? Make the plan, practice the plan, execute the plan.

The deadlift goal is 240, which works out to 45 pounds of bar +2(red + blue + green + change). Same process. Make the movie of the successful lift and decide what leads up to the successful lift.

I’ve had a bunch of coaches, some good, some bad. No one has ever asked what I needed to perform. Ever. It’s been a very long time since I executed an athletic performance. Best performances come from a place of laughter and stillness, just hanging out in the garage.

How will I be? The same way I’m lifting every day, Pinky. Thanks for asking.

Talk to me about it

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Today I asked my coach to talk to me about weight manipulation, “cutting”. Talk to me about it.

Remembering the Trans-Theoretical model, there are stages of change.

  1. Pre-contemplative
  2. Contemplative
  3. Action
  4. Relapse
  5. Maintenance

People move back and forth among the stages as we work toward change. The process is hardly linear and is usually depicted as a circle. I’ve been bouncing between contemplative and pre-contemplative about dropping weight for nearly a year. Graduate school has consumed every available ounce of will, and when I realized this had to wait, I took my first action step by pushing the whole project off until graduation.

Looking back at old blog entries, there is a tidy plan from two Decembers ago, which would have led to a desired outcome. It was fabulous! So SMART. Like I’ve done this before… a billion times. I can operationalize your ass in a heartbeat.

Today’s discussion was fairly technical. From his side of the house, there are three types of goals to work toward. First, there could be an aesthetic goal, or striving to achieve a certain look. Second, a body-fat goal, trying to achieve leanness, as measured by the percentage of body weight that is fat. Third, a weight goal. The third one is off the table. The body-fat goal makes the most sense. I’m far away from any kind of “look” and done chasing a number on a scale. Body fat percentage can be estimated by bioimpedance (BIA), calipers,  or a measuring tape. Everyone is graduating, which is good, but it also takes away our access to the medical-grade BIA equipment at the school’s fitness center. No one owns calipers. I have measuring tape and a helpful spouse. Done.

I’ve undergone this process a billion times since I was seven years old, but never in the context of powerlifting, so how do they do it? It’s calorie deficit. Simple enough. My coach says the usual process is to figure out what my estimated maintenance calorie count is, and every week for a set of weeks drop the calorie consumption to 80% of the previous week. How long did I want to cut? Twelve weeks. Okay. He also recommended some periodization, some weeks on and a de-load week. I think he wants to live. Really, if I think about the calendar, cutting in two phases until early July and then de-loading for the meet makes sense. The macro split also has to be calculated. My preferred split is 40-30-30. It’s been a very long time since I watched my macro splits.

What prompted the post today was reflecting on something I remember from Motivational Interviewing. Miller observed their early substance misuse patients,  wait-listed for treatment, who were given a handout on reducing alcohol use began changing without treatment. Curious about the phenomenon, they began looking at what happens if you make people wait to change when they are ready. Strangely enough, those relapse rates are higher than for folks who started the process while waiting for official treatment. In this instance, as I’ve felt better, I’ve made better choices and tried to move those “big rocks” of weight loss without accounting for any failed attempts. After all, this effort isn’t “on the clock”. Today, I turned down an enormous cinnamon roll because I didn’t want it without feeling the pressure to not eat it.

The math is strong in the exercise science folks. There’s a spreadsheet for everything. It’s all concrete, no woo-woo. Talking about weight loss with athletes is always a difficult conversation, suited to my side of the house. The emotional and social components are huge, as is the foundational idea this is not a diet for a short-term result but a change in my relationship with food. I don’t want a relationship with food! Can’t we just date casually? Yes, yes we can. In order to date casually, I’ve had to let go of my death grip on the damn stuff. There have been some seriously dysfunctional relationships in my life, but this one takes the cake. Maybe that’s how I should recast my affection for Love the Way you Lie.

This is my coach’s first time introducing an athlete to powerlifting and pursuing long-term goals. My job is to be a guinea pig, to show up and follow the plan. Healing occurs in relationship. In this relationship I’ll trust what he thinks he knows and count my macros. After April 28. Because that’s the plan.

Don’t think, Do.

I never should have stepped on the scale. Sure, I was probably the only woman at the fitness center who whooped with excitement because I was up 10 pounds. However, now outcome measures are on my mind again. The spring semester has been a dumpster fire. I knew it would be a dumpster fire and vowed to not watch what I ate because there was no way in Hell I could keep up with Any More Things, especially things that trigger feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame. No measuring anything, no watching anything. Nada. I pretty happy lifting three times a week, playing around with being sore, and tending to the dumpster fire.

Then, out of curiosity, the scale. The number didn’t matter, right? Just step on. Just once. It won’t hurt. Dammit to Hell, it may as well have been an apple offered to me by an old woman in the forest. Up ten (10) pounds. Whoa. Seriously? The program was working? Hypertrophy is a real thing. My clothes were fitting better, so this stuff wasn’t fat. Next time in the garage, I realized the last time I wore this t-shirt, it was tight to my skin. Now it’s hanging. I started wondering about fat loss again in an unhelpful, unstructured way. The reason the hypertrophy program worked was I didn’t think about it. Show up, lift stuff, talk too much, go home, soak. Repeat. My coach did his job. The program works. Thinking is what got me into this mess. Don’t think. Do. Let him do his job.

The program changed two weeks ago. Out of hypertrophy and on to strength because of the powerlifting meet in Atlanta in June. Because of strange Spring Break schedules, we lifted Mon-Tue-Wed and played around doing each lift each day, with variations and different loading schemes. It’s not social work, outside my scope of practice, don’t ask me for specifics, we’re playing around trying to figure out how to nudge my body into doing its thing. Thursday I woke up feeling perfect. Straight up perfect. A little sore here, some extra awareness there, but perfect. This is how I want to wake up every day and I’m sad because no lifting until next Monday.

This is the Spotify playlist I lifted to on Wednesday. It’s not a traditional gym-rat, bass-heavy, drive a woman through her last rep kind of playlist. It’s full of love and grief and joy and passion. When I had athletes, it was important to me they understand their own path to peak performance. Everyone has a different optimal arousal level. Self-awareness, folks. Because this is my fucking blog and I can drop the f-bomb and have my hair be blue, the link to Vaynerchuk again –

I do my best work laughing. Not thinking. Unproductive thinking is a performance killer.

This one makes me thoughtful.

Eminem. I don’t even know. It’s Eminem.

I have never loved a darker blue, than the darkness I have known in you…

Sleep. Lift. Eat mostly veggies to appetite when hungry. Sleep. Bring it down. It was so hard Thursday to resist grasping at that feeling. It had been a long time. I will feel that way again. No need to grasp. Do, just do.

Mental Prep

Over Winter Break I spent time prepping to lift heavy, lift consistently, and raise my game in the gym. I scoured Pinterest for motivating graphics and quotes, pasted them in my planner, thought about how I would feel and when it would suck the most. I sacrificed extra money so my trainer would make sure I worked out three times a week.

My squat is deeper than any human emotion

Every time I step up to the bar on squat day, this is what I say. When we began, my squat couldn’t get to parallel and I had to do sets of box squats even on non-squat days. My stabilizers were some weak-ass muscles. It wasn’t leg strength, just faith and stability. Friday I pleased my coach with a squat, at least to parallel and with some weight.

He makes it easy to be my best self, to show up and take risks, and showing up is more than half of the game.

How can I use that same kind of preparation to raise my game in other areas?

12 Books / 12 Months

Reading challenges are special for me. The first challenge was to read the Top 10 books by southern authors as ranked by some author’s journal. Other than Flannery O’Conner, the genre had never appealed to me and this was my first introduction to some beautiful literature. Over the years, I created my own challenge by asking new acquaintances for two books I should read if I had two weeks and was gifted authors and genres beyond my imagination.

This year, my challenge is to read one book per month from Seth Godin’s recommendation list, This is Broken.

  • January – Body of Work, Pamela Slim
  • February – The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander
  • March – Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds
  • April – Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte
  • May – Read this Before our Next Meeting, Al Pittampali
  • June – Do the Work & The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
  • July – Graphics for Business, John McWade
  • August – How We Decide, Johan Lehrer
  • September – Tribes, Seth Godin
  • October – Call to Action, Bryan Eisenberg
  • November – Awakening the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das
  • December – Little Brother, Cory Doctorow

There are other things in store for 2018 and the debate is always – talk about it and get support, or keep quiet and crush it?

Keeping quiet for the moment.

What’s Holding You Back?

Sunlight Falling On Wooden Fence

Yesterday I had a conversation with a client. There are goals he wants to achieve, he has solid reasons for working toward those goals, and every day it falls apart in the noise of day-to-day life.

“What’s holding you back?” I asked.

“Me.”

“Ah.” He’s flips between insight and haze, like all of us. He knows what he has to do to get the thing he wants, which leads to the larger goal. He’s smart like that. “Can you go 30 days without [the thing]? Just 30 days?” I ask. At this point my own issues are peeking over the therapeutic fence. Could I go 30 days without my thing? There are goals I want to achieve, solid reasons for working toward those goals, and every day it falls apart in the noise of day-to-day life. Then comes the judgement call. Is this one of those points where I draw the parallel out loud, do the self-disclosure, and see where it takes us?

Yep. On the day before Thanksgiving, I committed to 30 days without processed carbohydrates. On one hand, I didn’t think this through. I am making pies today. However, I have eaten cake, fancy coffees, breads, chips, and french fries in the last few weeks. Pies are not that special this month.

Isn’t that the problem? Today is special because I don’t feel well, I feel great, I’m mourning, I’m celebrating, I’m anxious, I’m not anxious. Just like my client.

Today is Day 1.

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